Agrigultural Photography – Early Morning Cows

Frosty turnout after milking. Canon 1DX, 70-200 f2.8 @f7.1

So the other week I’d been engaged by agricultural company Reverberate PR to shoot a local farmer (Jon) with a a representative from feed producter HJ Lea Oakes (Philip). This all started out as a straightforward set of portraits to show the two (together with cows of course), both posed and interacting, with shots of them handling feed and silage. I was looking forward to the shoot, as a photographer in Shropshire there’s nothing better than being out in the countryside on a nice spring day. However on the day we chose the weather was less than ideal with a heavy blanket of cloud. I shot some “keepers” and we rescheduled to later in the week, mindful that the photos needed to be ready to meet a publishing deadline.

So a few days later with some much needed sunshine, we reconvened. The cows had been turned out to graze and we walked down to the field, me loaded down with cameras, off camera Elinchrom flash and a light stand (it was a sunny day and I was mindful that I had to work against full on sunshine, hence the off camera flash kit).

Now if you’ve never been in a field of cows, believe me when I say it’s quite an unusual experience (thankfully I’m used to it). They’re very curious and tend to crowd around to see what’s going on. At some point the brave ones will decide to have a lick of whatever is nearby, so while I was shooting the portraits I could feel my wellies being nibbled and the occasional lick. One even decided that my lens was worth a taste. As we moved off across the field they all followed, eager to get as close as possible to see whatever was going to happen next. I can only say that if they had expressions they would have shown total disappointment when we ducked under an electric fence to create some separation.

Anyway, the shoot went really well, with some fantastic portraits that I’ll be able to blog once the article has been released. And I decided given the good weather to return early the following morning just to get some stock shots of them grazing.

So back I went at 6:30am, the sun was just coming up and there was a heavy spring frost. I unhooked the electric fence across the road, parked my car and pulled out some minimal kit – Jon told me that the cows would be in a different field and there was no-one to be seen, so I set off down a track in the direction I thought they’d be.

After about 10 minutes walking and seeing no cows, I heard a slight sound. Thinking it was Jon I turned around to see about twenty cows standing there. They’d crept up silently behind me and the closest one moved in for a lick. My first thought was that I’d found the cows (so all good) followed very quickly by wondering where they’d come from, and then whether they were meant to be there. This was then followed (funny how my brain works) by panic when I tried to remember whether I’d actually hooked the electric fence up correctly when I parked the car. I’m always really careful of course but the doubt did set in for a moment.

I kept walking (with my fan club behind giving me the occasional nudge and lick) and with some relief saw a large part of the herd in a field – the cows had been milked and turned out so clearly I hadn’t committed a faux pas with the fence. The problem was, this lot didn’t want to go in the field – I was obviously much more interesting. So they crowded round and getting a photo was a bit of a challenge – I’d put a 70-200 lens onto the camera, not a wide angle. I reasoned that if I walked back up the track they’d get the message and continue to the field, but they just followed me, one in particular took a fancy to me. In the end after deciding that my coat and boots didn’t taste of anything interesting they got bored with the game and headed on to the field, leaving me with the space to get the shots I was looking for.

First frosty turnout of 2021. Canon 1DX, 70-200 f2.8 @f4.5